The Latest: Rate of positive virus cases soars in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas — The rate of positive virus cases in Texas has soared to the highest levels of the pandemic and state officials are still unable to fully explain why.

The infection rate in Texas was at a seven-day average of more than 24% on Thursday, meaning that nearly 1 in every 4 coronavirus tests were coming back positive. The spike comes as thousands of Texas schools are reopening this week.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says state health officials have brought in a data team to look into recent trends. Testing has dramatically dropped off in Texas, where the daily testing average has fallen to half of levels seen in July.

Officials say testing supply isn’t the problem. Dallas County officials say testing demand has dropped by 40%. Health experts worry that long lines for testing earlier this summer and even longer waits for results may be discouraging people without symptoms from even bothering.

The high infection rate threatens to further drag out Texas bars staying shut. Abbott says the number needs to be below 10% before the state can consider reopening bars, which have been closed since June.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— NYC mayor plans to reopen nation’s largest public school system on time

— WHO says Russian vaccine not in advanced test stages

— Second man dies of virus in federal immigration custody in Georgia

— Talks by U.S. leaders on emergency coronavirus aid are stalling out, with both sides playing the blame game rather than make any serious moves to try to break their stalemate.

— Number of U.S. laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic intensified five months ago, yet still remains at a high level.

— Artist creates origami crane memorial for COVID-19 victims

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities have quarantined the country’s third-largest migrant camp on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Chios after an asylum-seeker and a staff member were diagnosed with COVID-19.

The quarantine, in force until Aug. 25, includes a ban on anybody entering or exiting the facility, and the suspension of all programs in the camp by charity groups as well as the asylum application process.

The camp is home to more than 3,800 people — almost four times above capacity. It’s the first time a COVID-19 outbreak has been registered at any of the island camps, where a total 25,000 people live in very cramped conditions after arriving in smuggling boats from the nearby Turkish coast.

The migration ministry said Thursday that a 35-year old asylum-seeker from Yemen was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was taken to hospital with “mild” symptoms and a fever. The other case was a staff member at the camp. No details were provided on her condition.

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MILAN — Italian Health Ministry data shows that the number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country has risen above 500 for the first time this week.

According to the data released on Thursday, the 523 new positives brings to 252,235 the total number in Italy since the virus was first detected locally in late February.

The northern regions of Veneto, Lombardy and Liguria all recorded boosts in the high double-digits, while only Valle d’Aosta, which shares an Alpine border with France, recorded none.

Six people died in the last 24 hours, compared with 10 a day earlier, bringing the epidemic total to 35,225. A weekly report shows that the situation in Italy ‘’risks worsening’’ with 1,000 active outbreaks, with new cases recorded in every region of the country, often imported from abroad.

Italy is imposing mandatory testing on anyone arriving from Greece, Spain, Malta and Croatia as the numbers continue to nudge up, but the head of the scientific committee helping to guide the coronavirus response said that a new national lockdown was “improbable.’’

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NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held firm to plans to reopen the nation’s largest public school system within a month, despite pleas from teachers and principals to delay the return of students to classrooms.

The city is aiming for a hybrid reopening Sept. 10, with most of the 1.1 million students spending two or three days a week in physical classrooms and learning remotely the rest of the time. Parents were given the option of requesting full-time remote learning for their children.

The Democratic mayor conceded there were challenges with the plan as the city recovers from a pandemic. But he says the city has managed to lower the rate of positive cases to around 1%.

The union representing school administrators sent a letter to de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza on Wednesday, saying school leaders still had questions about various issues, including staffing, personal protective equipment and ventilation system repairs

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MEXICO CITY — A potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University will be produced in Mexico if its advanced trials are successful and it receives regulatory approval, the government said Thursday.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the agreement with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which also provides for production in Argentina, should result in a vaccine that the government would provide free starting in the first quarter of 2021.

Production of the vaccine in Mexico and Argentina would allow for distribution throughout Latin America, except for Brazil, which had already reached its own agreement with the drug maker.

Sylvia Varela, AstraZeneca’s president in Mexico said the cost of a dose would be around $4, but López Obrador said the government would cover that expense.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the foundation of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim would effectively guarantee production starts on time. He said results from the Phase III clinical trials are expected in November.

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MADRID — Spain’s daily number of new coronavirus cases reached nearly 3,000 Thursday, up significantly from 1,690 the previous day.

That’s the highest daily number of new infections since April, as countries around Europe are concerned about a second wave of the coronavirus.

Emergency health response chief Fernando Simón says part of the increase was due to the Madrid region reporting the numbers for two days, after missing the deadline Wednesday.

Cases in Spain have been steadily increasing since the country ended a more than three-month lockdown on June 21. Simons says there is no pressure on the health system, with coronavirus patients occupying only 3% of hospital beds.

Spain is conducting around 340,000 nasal swab tests a week, he says. More than 50% of cases are asymptomatic, and the average age of infected people is 42 for women and 39 for men.

The Health Ministry says Spain has officially recorded more than 337,00 total infections and more than 28,000 deaths.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization says the vaccine approved by Russia this week is not among the nine that it considers in the advanced stages of testing.

WHO and partners have included nine experimental COVID-19 vaccines within an investment mechanism it is encouraging countries to join, known as the Covax facility. The initiative allows countries to invest in several vaccines to obtain early access, while theoretically providing funding for developing countries.

“We don’t have sufficient information at this point to make a judgment” on the Russia vaccine, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general. “We’re currently in conversation with Russia to get additional information to understand the status of that product, the trials that have been undertaken and then what the next steps might be.”

This week, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia had approved a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to complete advanced trials in people and claimed, without evidence, the immunization protects people for up to two years.

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LUMPKIN, Ga. — A Costa Rican man in federal immigration custody has become the second detainee in Georgia to die from COVID-19 complications.

Officials say 70-year-old Jose Guillen-Vega died on Monday after being hospitalized since Aug. 1. Guillen-Vega was held at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin. He’s the fifth person to die while in an ICE detention facility nationwide.

The detention center has reported more than 150 coronavirus cases. Guillen-Vega had diabetes and high blood pressure.

Advocates have been asking the agency to release at-risk detainees during the pandemic.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Greece’s foreign minister says his country will allow tourists from Israel to enter.

Nikos Dendias announced during a visit to Israel that 600 Israeli tourists will be allowed into four Greek destinations per week.

It wasn’t immediately clear under what conditions the tourists will be allowed in and whether they must quarantine upon arrival.

Dendias met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Israel’s Foreign Ministry says there was no decision regarding Greek tourists to Israel.

Israel is challenged by high daily coronavirus infections, adjusted for population. However, the country is taking steps to open travel for its citizens.

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BERLIN — A court in Austria has fined a woman 10,800 euros ($12,810) for leaving her quarantine while infected with the coronavirus.

The regional court in Tyrol found the 54-year-old German woman had breached the order to stay home three times.

Police officers who checked on the woman found her shopping in a supermarket, strolling in a park and visiting a hospital to treat an injured hand.

The defendant can appeal the ruling.

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GREENVILLE, N.C. — East Carolina University police say about 20 parties, including one with nearly 400 people in attendance, were shut down during the school’s opening weekend.

Lt. Chris Sutton of the East Carolina University Police Department told McClatchy News the parties were held last week and over the weekend at the school.

Nearly 5,500 students began moving into their dorm rooms at the university last Wednesday. Sutton says most of the parties that campus authorities have shut down since then were “manageable,” with between 25 and 50 people.

Sutton says the party with 400 people was held a few blocks from the school in an area dominated by off-campus student housing. They dispersed once authorities arrived.

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ROME — Rome prosecutors have formally told Premier Giuseppe Conte and other ministers they have opened an investigation into the government’s coronavirus response.

A statement Thursday from Conte’s office notes such investigations are required when complaints are received. However, prosecutors have already informed the government that it considers the claims “unfounded and worthy of being shelved.”

Conte and the ministers say they were available to provide any information “in a spirit of maximum collaboration.”

Italy was the first country in Europe to become the epicenter of COVID-19 and has a confirmed death toll of more than 35,000, now sixth highest in the world.

Conte and the health and interior ministers already had been questioned by Bergamo prosecutors investigating a delay in locking down two key towns in hard-hit Lombardy. The Bergamo prosecutors have made clear they interviewed government authorities as informed witnesses, not suspects.

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LONDON — Researchers at Imperial College estimate 6% of England’s population — or 3.4 million people — have been infected by COVID-19.

The estimate is based on a study of 100,000 randomly selected volunteers who used home finger-prick blood tests to find antibodies for the virus that cause COVID-19.

The study, through the end of June, found London had the highest infection rate at 13%. Black, Asian and other ethnic groups were two to three times more likely to have had COVID-19 than white people.

England had nearly 271,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The United Kingdom is listed at more than 315,000 cases.

The majority of the Johns Hopkins confirmed case count comes from tests using nasal swabs.

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JOHANNESBURG — The United Nations estimates that 43% of schools around the world don’t have access to water and soap for basic hand-washing.

The new report comes as countries wrestle with when and how to safely open schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF says more than one-third of the 818 million children around the globe who lacked basic hand-washing facilities at their schools last year are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report says authorities must balance health concerns with economic and social ones in deciding on opening schools, and it notes the negative effects that long closures have on children.

The report also says one in three schools around the world have limited or no drinking water service.

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JOHANNESBURG — The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a continent-wide study has begun into antibodies to the coronavirus after evidence indicated that more people have been infected than official numbers show.

Director John Nkengasong told reporters the study will include all African countries. Those showing interest to start in the coming weeks are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria and Morocco.

That’s after surveys in Mozambique found antibodies in 5% of households in the city of Nampula and 2.5% in the city of Pemba. And yet Mozambique has just 2,481 confirmed cases.

Nkengasong says, “What is important is far fewer people are coming down with the disease. How many people are infected and asymptomatic on our continent? We don’t know that.”

Africa’s young population, with a median age of 19, has been called a possible factor.

Categories: National News

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